Antarctic lakes are characterised by simplified, truncated food webs. The lakes range from freshwater to hypersaline with a continuum of physical and chemical conditions that offer a natural laboratory in which to study evolution. Molecular studies on Antarctic lake communities are still in their infancy, but there is clear evidence from some taxonomic groups, for example the Cyanobacteria, that there is endemicity. Moreover, many of the bacteria have considerable potential as sources of novel biochemicals such as low temperature enzymes and anti-freeze proteins. Among the eukaryotic organisms survival strategies have evolved, among which dependence on mixotrophy in phytoflagellates and some ciliates is common. There is also some evidence of evolution of new species of flagellate in the marine derived saline lakes of the Vestfold Hills. Recent work on viruses in polar lakes demonstrates high abundance and high rates of infection, implying that they may play an important role in genetic exchange in these extreme environments.
|Philosophical Transactions of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
|Published - 29 Dec 2007